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Mini Language Classes a Highlight of Alumni Reunion Weekend

Bon vivant, ¿Qué haces?, Wie geht’s?, domo arigato – terms like these may jog our memory, but how much do we really remember from our foreign language classes? After all, for some of us it has been quite a while…

With that in mind, alumni returning to Washington and Lee for Alumni Reunion Weekend 2009 will, for the fourth year in a row, have the chance to brush up on critical foreign language skills. The Tucker Multimedia Center and foreign language departments will host a series of mini language classes taught by modern language faculty from 3-5 p.m. on Friday, May 1, in Tucker Hall.

These thirty- and sixty-minute sessions will focus on central themes and provide useful information for foreign travelers or for those who merely wish on occasion to demonstrate their skills. Taught in an informal and relaxed atmosphere, classes have become an annual favorite for returning alumni.

Professors providing instruction this year will be Ken Ujie (Japanese), Daniel Kramer (German), Mónica Botta and Florinda Ruiz (Spanish), Patricia Hardin (Italian), Susan Dixon (French), Ye Yuan (Chinese) and Cristina Pinto-Bailey (Portuguese). Mónica Botta, assistant professor of Spanish, affirms that “this is a great initiative because foreign language classes offer alumni the unique opportunity to give a living language a try, practice one they’ve already studied or simply explore one aspect of a given culture through a microcosm of a lesson.”

“The TMC and language departments constantly seek to bring the wide world of foreign cultures and languages home to the Washington and Lee campus. We are very happy to have found a means of reaching not only current students, but our alumni as well,” said Dick Kuettner, organizer, director of the Tucker Multimedia Center and a professor in the Romance Languages department.

To learn more about the TMC and its initiatives promoting language teaching and learning with and without technology, please visit http://tmc.wlu.edu .

W&L to Present Sen. John W. Warner with The Washington Award

Washington and Lee University will present former Sen. John W. Warner, a 1949 graduate of the University, with its highest honor – The Washington Award – on Saturday, May 2, at 10:30 a.m. during the annual meeting of the W&L Alumni Association in Lee Chapel.

The Washington Award recognizes distinguished leadership and service to the nation and/or extraordinary acts of philanthropy in support of Washington and Lee and other institutions. The award is a small copy of a marble statue of George Washington done by British sculptor Sir Francis Cantrey for the Massachusetts State House.

“Sen. Warner’s life exemplifies the attributes of honor, integrity and civility that Washington and Lee strives to instill in our students,” said Washington and Lee President Kenneth P. Ruscio, who will present the award to Warner.

Warner began his public service during World War II, when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the age of 17. He served on active duty until the summer of 1946 and, following his honorable discharge as a petty officer third class, entered Washington and Lee, his father’s alma mater, on the GI Bill and received the B.S. degree in basic engineering in 1949.

After graduating from W&L, Warner entered law school at the University of Virginia but left to begin a second tour of active military duty, this time as an officer in the Marine Corps, when the Korean War broke out in 1950. He served for two years in Korea before returning to U.Va. to complete his law degree in 1953.

From 1953 to 1956, Warner served as law clerk for the late Chief Judge E. Barrett Prettyman of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He was appointed an assistant U.S. attorney in 1956, and served four years in the trial and appellate divisions before entering private practice in 1960.

In February 1969, Warner was appointed undersecretary of the Navy and, three years later, he succeeded John H. Chafee as secretary of the Navy. He participated in the Law of the Sea talks and negotiated the Incidents at Sea Executive Agreement with the Soviet Union.

Warner was appointed by President Gerald Ford to coordinate the celebration of the bicentennial of the founding of the United States, directing the federal role at events in all 50 states and in 22 foreign countries.

Warner began his five terms in the U.S. Senate in 1978 and is the second-longest serving senator from Virginia in the 218-year history of the Senate. He formerly chaired the Armed Services Committee and served on the Intelligence Committee, on the Environment and Public Works and the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

In August 2007, Warner announced his decision not to seek re-election to a sixth term. In remarks at his announcement, Warner said that the “communities of Charlottesville, Amherst and Lexington are, to me, hallowed grounds. My ancestors on my father’s side go back many generations in Amherst; Lexington is home to Washington and Lee University, where my father graduated in 1903 and [where] I, following Naval service, graduated in 1949; and then to Charlottesville where I entered the Law School.”

Warner served as a member of Washington and Lee’s board of trustees from 1968 to 1980. He was awarded an honorary degree from the University in 2005.

Spring is for Blogging

Welcome yet another blog from W&L’s Spring Term: this one is courtsy of the New York Internship program. When they’re not out making it in the Big Apple, students in the annual internship program are sharing their experiences and thoughts. In only their first few days we’ve learned that Erin Galliher (who’s at Forbes) enjoyed a falafel pita, that Catherine Carlock got to watch a pre-recording of CNBC’s “Mad Money,” and that Michael Morella spent his first day at Ark Media concentrating on Eva Longoria’s life history. We also got a picture of the Wall Street bull courtesy of Cale Grove (see above). So stay tuned and see how the term goes for the New York interns (sounds like a reality show) while you also spend some time with the biology class in Yellowstone Park and the archaeology class digging over the mountain at Monticello.

Wolves, Bison and Pronghorn Antelope, Oh My!

Biology professor Bill Hamilton and his Spring Term class are out in Yellowstone where they are conducting research invasive plant species and “their impacts on soil nitrogen cycling and organic matter decomposition.” Here’s some background on the research that Bill does. When they aren’t out in the field collecting samples or in the lab examining them, they are chronicling their work on a blog where you can already see that they’re definitely not in Lexington any more. Not only have they posted a cool gallery of images, including a wolf waiting to dine on an elk, several bison, a bald eagle and Rocky Mountain bluebirds, but they’ve got some video taken with a Flip MinoHD Camcorder. You’ll want to follow this blog throughout the term. Based on the first few days, odds are good that they’ll have lots of interesting images to see before they finish their work. You’re apt to see a few more photo galleries like this one.

T. Boone Pickens Scheduled to Speak at W&L

Oil billionaire and philanthropist T. Boone Pickens, an outspoken advocate for alternative energy, will speak at Washington and Lee University on Thursday, April 30, at 5 p.m. in Lee Chapel.

Pickens’ speech is sponsored by the Contact Committee, a student organization that brings prominent speakers to the campus each year. A reception will follow the speech in the Great Hall of the Science Center. The public is invited, and admission is free.

Founder and chairman of BP Capital Management, one of the nation’s most successful energy-oriented investment funds, the 80-year-old Pickens has gained the reputation as the “Oracle of Oil” for his accurate predictions of oil and gas prices.

In July 2008, he launched an ambitious, self-funded grass-roots campaign aimed at reducing America’s dependence on imported oil.  He has argued in a national television ad campaign, in personal appearances and on his Web site that the nation’s dependence on foreign oil threats the economy, the environment and national security.

The Pickens Plan, which has more than a million supporters, calls for wind generation facilities to produce 20 percent of the nation’s electricity and for natural gas to fuel vehicles.

In his 2008 book, The First Billion is the Hardest, Pickens details what the country must do to win back its energy independence. He is aggressively pursuing a wide range of other business interests, from water marketing, wind power and ranch development initiatives to Clean Energy, a company he founded. Through Mesa Water, Pickens is the largest private holder of permitted groundwater rights in the United States. Mesa Power is planning the world’s largest wind farm in the Texas Panhandle. Clean Energy, which went public in 2007, is advancing the use of natural gas as a cleaner-burning and more cost-effective transportation fuel alternative to gasoline and diesel.

Pickens earned a degree in geology from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) in 1951. He has been a generous philanthropist throughout his life, giving away more than $600 million. The T. Boone Pickens Foundation is focused on improving lives through grants supporting educational programs, medical research, athletics and corporate wellness, at-risk youths, the entrepreneurial process and conservation and wildlife initiatives.

The recipient of dozens of major awards, Pickens was the 2006 recipient of the Horatio Alger Award from The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Inc.  The award epitomizes those who overcome adversity and humble beginnings to achieve success.

Katherine Crowley Wins AMS Congressional Fellowship

The American Mathematical Society (AMS) has announced that Katherine Crowley, assistant professor of mathematics at Washington and Lee University, will be the organization’s Congressional Fellow for 2009-2010.

She will join 29 other congressional fellows, representing the other scientific societies, on Capitol Hill for the next academic year.

According to the AMS, the fellowship is designed to demonstrate the value of science-government interaction, and to bring a technical background and external perspective to the decision-making process in Congress.

Crowley will spend a year working on the staff of a member of congress or on a congressional committee. Her precise assignment will be decided in September when she will attend a week of placement interviews.

“I’m excited about it,” says Crowley. “The reason I applied was because I really want to see up close the process of turning science into policy. It’s one thing to create a perfect, beautiful, theoretically exact solution to something, but it’s quite different for someone to apply it. If there’s too much of a gap between science and law making, the two processes will never be useful to each other. I’d like to help bridge that divide. Or at least see how it gets done.”

Crowley’s participation in the fellowship program may also have benefits for W&L students.

“I’ll be looking to bring back some opportunities for W&L students, although I don’t know what those will be yet. Maybe it will be in the classroom—giving them a better understanding of how math can be used in public policy decision-making. Maybe it will be some type of internship. I’ll be keeping my eyes open.”

The fellowship program includes a year-long seminar series on issues involving science, technology and public policy. All fellowships are administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Another Race for Lacey

At 81, Lacey Putney has just announced that he will run for re-election to the Virginia House of Delegates from Virginia’s 19th District, which includes the city of Bedford and much of Bedford and Botetourt counties. Putney, a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1950, is already the Commonwealth’s longest-serving legislative representative, having served in the House of Delegates since 1962. Putney is an Independent, and so far no one is stepping up to challenge him. Little wonder. In 2007, he was opposed by Democrat Lewis Medlin and won 73 percent of the vote. That year he was also named chairman of the influential budget-writing House Appropriations Committee, prompting the Roanoke Times to profile him as Boss of the budget.

W&L Free Service Translates 50 Languages

Who would think that the small town of Lexington, Va., would be able to provide a translation service for 50 different languages? Who would think there would be a demand for it?

Yet such a service does exist and it’s free.

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) at Washington and Lee University has provided live translations to the community for the last seven years. “Most of the demand is for Spanish,” says Ellen Mayock, professor of Romance languages, “but we have provided translations in Mandarin Chinese, Farsi, Swedish, French, Italian, Russian, Turkish, Ukranian, Portuguese and Korean and have the capability to offer 50 languages.”

Master Patrolman F.W. Smith, a 27-year veteran of the Lexington Police Department, agrees that it’s mostly Spanish that’s needed. But he recalls an incident where he used the ESOL service when he arrested a Bulgarian man for a DUI. “It was the Fourth of July, and the men in the car were all heavily intoxicated. Where am I going to find someone who speaks Bulgarian? School was out but luckily a W&L student helped me through the whole situation,” says Smith, adding that the student ended up coming to the police station as well as the court hearing.

“When I started back in 1982 we didn’t have an interpreter, and you didn’t need one because the population was not that diverse at the time,” says Smith. “But it is now and it really helps — especially when you make a traffic stop. It’s unnerving when they don’t speak English. I know a little bit of Spanish but it’s hard to get your point across.”

W&L students and Mayock cover approximately half of the 50 languages offered, and the others are handled by volunteers from both the W&L and Lexington communities. Mayock would like to add to that list. “I’d like to tap into the retired community more,” she says. “There are a lot of people here with great education, a desire to help and they speak plural languages.”

“We have a large Hispanic population in this area” says Mayock, pointing out that the latest language map indicates that there are now 1,100 Spanish-speakers in the Rockbridge County area. In the 2000 census, nearly eight per cent of respondents in Lexington spoke a language other than English in their homes. Almost five percent spoke English less than ‘very well’.”

ESOL began two years after that census, and the area has seen an increase of more than 200 percent in Spanish-speaking people since then. “That means our service is much more in demand,” says Mayock. “If there’s a need in the community, we want to address it, and we’ll do it as professionally as possible.”

More than 300 Individuals Served

ESOL has provided translations to more than 300 people so far and for a variety of situations. Hospitals, schools and pharmacies have all used the service. The police will sometimes call the service at 3 or 4 a.m. looking for help. But the District Court is one of the most frequent users.

Guadalupe Maria Suarez, a W&L senior from Buenos Aires, Argentina, has been chairman of the ESOL hotline since she was a sophomore. She recounts one particular case when she went to court.

“There was the judge, me and four men from Guatamala,” she says. “They didn’t speak a word of English. I would listen to the judge, translate for these guys and then translate back to the judge. They had gotten a speeding ticket, and they were angry about it. They believed they had been stopped only because the police could tell from their license plates that they were Hispanic. With some of the language they used, I couldn’t translate everything they said, but I did my best to explain how they felt.”

Another time, she was called to the hospital. “This guy fell from the staircase and broke both his wrists. It was pretty bad. He didn’t speak a word of English, and he could barely say “hi” and “bye.” I felt bad because I had to tell him “Both your wrists are broken.” I went with him to the pharmacy to get his medicine. I feel so bad for these people. It reminds me of me when I was younger and English was a second language for me.”

But it’s not all police and medical cases.

Hansen Babington, another W&L senior, recalls working with a Bolivian man. “I helped him with finding a job, and we went to about eight or 10 restaurants in the Buena Vista and Lexington area. I worked as a translator between him and the cooking staff. I tried to communicate his aims for employment and what he was capable of doing. He was successful in getting a job but he ended up having to move to Washington after about two weeks.”

Mayock recalls one particularly interesting case. “We had a Spanish-speaking couple going through pre-marriage counseling at the Catholic Church. One of our students went to several different meetings between the priest and the couple to do the live interpretation back and forth. The couple has since married, and now they and their two children are taking English classes with us, which is another service we provide.”

A Learning Experience

Besides helping the local community, Mayock and the W&L students learn a lot themselves.

“The students want to use their Spanish every day in real situations,” says Mayock. “ESOL was student-driven from the start. They came to faculty members in the Spanish department and said, “We have this idea, what do you think?”

“Selfishly, for me, it’s a great way to get to know some wonderful students outside the classroom. Then again, we’ve all learned how to say the Miranda warning in Spanish and words like arraignment. We’ve even produced a glossary of terms that students can refer to and take with them on appointments.”

Mayock also points out that they’ve improved their knowledge of the street jargon used by drug dealers. “It comes in useful when attending an attempted drug bust. Plus, it’s linguistically fascinating,” she says.

Any organization using the ESOL services must sign a waiver. It states that ESOL is a volunteer organization of amateurs coming out of a university, that it is a free service, and that translators will facilitate communication and remain impartial.

“One of the things that sometimes happens in tense situations,” says Mayock, “is that the person you are sitting with and translating for can begin to see you as an ally through language. I have a very soft heart and tend to want to feel that alliance as well. I understand. There’s something completely reassuring about having a bi-lingual person in the room who can make sure that you are understood.

“But to be totally faithful to the whole situation you need to represent exactly what’s being said and nothing more. These are the lessons that we are all learning when doing these live interpretations—that we should just be invisible and let the language speak.

“One result of the ESOL service,” says Mayock, “is that it creates an ongoing link with the Spanish-speaking person you are helping. They know they can call upon you again, and very often they start coming to our English classes.”

• Call (540) 460-6606 to reach the ESOL hotline. Or e-mail esol@wlu.edu to set up an appointment for a live translation.

• ESOL offers free English classes at the Rockbridge Regional Library every Thursday night at 8 p.m. and expects to continue this service throughout the summer.
• ESOL also offers three different levels of free Spanish classes each week on the W&L campus. One-on-one tutoring arrangements can also be made.

• Further information on ESOL services can be found on their Web site http://esol.wlu.edu/

Rave Reviews for John Pipkin's Debut Novel

“Gripping and profound.” “Witty, bawdy, philosophical, touching, and humorous.” “Audacious, wondrous.” And those are just a sampling of the adjectives being used to describe Woodsburner, the debut novel of Washington and Lee alumnus John Pipkin of the Class of 1989.  Scheduled to be released on April 28, Woodsburner covers a single day in the life of Henry David Thoreau. According to the Washington Post’s review, “he ingenious nature of this structure grows clearer with each haunting chapter.” The Kirkus Review even uses the “p” word, writing: “A superb historical fiction as well as a complex and provocative novel of ideas—Pulitzer Prize material.” There’s good news for those of you who will be returning to Lexington for the 2009 Alumni Weekend — John will be reading from and signing Woodsburner on Saturday, May 2, from noon to 2 p.m. in Elrod Commons. It’s a sneak preview in some ways since it will be John’s first event since the book is officially available and precedes the official book launch back in his home town of Austin on May 7. You can read some additional reviews of the novel here.

Tea Time in Southern Living

subscribers who live in the Mid-Atlantic area will be in for a treat this month when they discover Washington and Lee’s Janet Ikeda gracing the cover of the special insert, Mid-Atlantic Living People & Places. The article in question-and-answer format describes both the Japanese Tearoom constructed in the Watson Pavilion as well as Janet’s classes that introduce W&L students to chanoyu, or the art of tea. he story isn’t yet on line, but you can download a pdf of the page and read Janet’s answers. Asked, for instance, what students get ouf of the class, Janet said:  “It’s a great way to study abroad without leaving town. Once you enter the tearoom and the ceremony begins, you’re in Japan.”

Tell Us What You Think…Really

After each issue of W&L: The Washington and Lee University Alumni Magazine is published, we post a survey for readers to give us their views. We do want to hear from our readers with their opinions and their ideas. The survey for the Winter issue is now available. Please take a moment, click on this link, and tell us what you thought about that issue and about the Annual Report, which was included in the issue. Among the findings from the survey that was posted following the publication of the Fall edition: 35 percent read the entire magazine, 47 percent read a few sections, 17 percent skimmed it, and two percent didn’t know it had arrived. In addition to the survey, the magazine Web site has some Web-only features and we’re added an electronic version of the magazine, too.

More Poems A Day

Last week we brought news that Shenandoah Editor R.T. Smith had his poem,”Storm Warming,” selected as Poetry Daily’s featured poem on April 16. We turned the page — or clicked the browser link too fast — because just one day later a Washington and Lee alumna, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, was similarly honored when her poem, “Garden,” was accorded the very same honor. But there’s more. On Monday, another of Lyrae’s poems was given headline status when “Transit of Venus” was the Poem-a-Day featured poem on the Academy of American Poets Web site, poets.org. This is all the more impressive since this is National Poetry Month. Lyrae, a member of the Class of 1993, has recently published a new poetry collection ]Open Interval

Dig It

Spring Term starts Monday (April 20), and there will be the usual array of fascinating courses to consider, both on and off campus. One that gets off to a quick start is the Archaeology Field Methods Course, otherwise known as The Dig. In past years, The Dig has been fairly close to Lexington — Liberty Hall ruins and Longdale Furnace. This year the program moves over the mountain where the students will begin excavating the remains of Thomas Jefferson’s overseer’s house near Monticello. It’s part of a larger research project with Monticello and its Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS). You can follow along on a blog that faculty members Alison Bell and Sean Devlin and their students will be keeping throughout the term. So be sure to check in to see what they’ve found. For background on the project, you can listen to Alison’s description below:

Three Law Students Receive VLF Public Service Scholarships

Original story at:

Prof. Johanna Bond Named WLSO Professor of the Year

The Book

When Laura Turner, the technical services librarian at Leyburn Library, came to work this past Wednesday, she had no idea what awaited her. Early that morning the Associated Press had moved a story about the book that came back and, gefore the day was over, Laura had been interviewed by news outlets from Roanoke to London. The book in question was the one stolen from Washington College by a Union soldier during Hunter’s Raid in 1864 and returned in February by Mike Dau, former head football coach and now varsity handball coach at Lake Forest College in Illinois, who had inherited it. Out in the Chicago suburbs, Mike was probably wondering, like Laura, when the media flurry would end since he was doing his share of interviews, too. Being caught in a media maelstrom is a fascintating experience since , as both Laura and Mike would admit, every interview takes on a life all its own In Laura’s case, she talked live with the BBC via Skype and by phone to the CBC before doing a couple of television interviews.Here is a link that will bring back the Google News Search for the story. And here are a couple of specific links that provide different takes on the story:

• Original AP Story from Chicago Tribune

• AP Video Story

• All Things Considered (NPR)

• As It Happens (Canadian Broadcasting System)

Shenandoah Editor's Poem Featured on Poetry Daily

“Storm Warning” by Shenandoah editor R.T. Smith is the featured poem on Poetry Daily, an anthology of contemporary poetry that publishes a new poem from new books, magazines, and journal each day. “Storm Warning” is from a sequence called The Red Wolf, which comprise poems about Flannery O’Connor, many of which are written in her voice. “Storm Warning” appears in the Spring 2009 edition of the Virginia Quarterly Review. Rod’s work has also appeared in Best American Poetry, Best American Short Stories, the Pushcart Prize Anthology and New Stories from the South. Outlaw Style (Arkansas, 2007), his latest volume of poetry, was recently awarded the Library of Virginia Poetry Prize. You can listen to the poet read “Storm Warning” below:

R.T. Smith reads “Storm Warming”

Book Returned to Washington and Lee Library Only 52,858 Days Late

What qualifies as perhaps the longest overdue library book in history found its way back to Washington and Lee University’s Leyburn Library in February, when the first volume of W.F.P. Napier’s four-volume set, History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France, was returned to the shelves after an absence of 52,858 days.

A Union soldier named C.S. Gates took the book from Washington College, as it was then called, on June 11, 1864, when General David Hunter and his army of West Virginia raided the area and looted the college’s buildings.

Gates, however, thought he was exacting revenge on Washington College’s next-door neighbor, the Virginia Military Institute, which was set on fire by the raiding party.

A note signed by Gates and inscribed in the book reads: “This book was taken from the Military Institute at Lexington Virginia in June 1864 when General Hunter was on his Lynchburg raid. The Institution was burned by the order of Gen Hunter. The remains of Gen. Stonewall Jackson rest in the cemetery at this place.”

“It’s a remarkable story,” said Laura Turner, technical services director for W&L’s library. “Although the soldier’s note refers to VMI, it’s clearly our book, since it has ‘‘Washington College’ handwritten on the title page that other volumes of that era have, and also matches perfectly Volume Two in that series, which is still in our possession.

“If I were to guess, I think the soldier who took the book thought he was taking it from the VMI library, but this was in the midst of what had to be a fairly chaotic series of events, and our campuses are now, as they were then, side by side.” The Union troops, in fact, burned down the VMI library during the raid.

Soldier Gates passed the purloined book down through his family, and eventually it came into the possession of Mike Dau, of Lake Forest, Ill. Dau inherited it from a Lake Forest couple, Myron and Isabel Gates.

“Mrs. Gates had shown me the book many years before she died,” said Dau, the head handball and assistant football coach at Lake Forest College. “I knew that this was a very special book, and remember telling Mrs. Gates even then that it really belonged back with its rightful owner.”

Dau contacted a book dealer in North Carolina, Harry Goodheart, a Washington and Lee alumnus from the class of 1966. Goodheart put Dau in touch with the Leyburn Library at W&L.

In February, Dau and his wife, Paula, traveled from their home in Lake Forest, a Chicago suburb, to visit relatives in the Washington area. They made a special trip to Lexington, book safely in hand, to deliver it in person.

“Given all the history that is wrapped up in this book, I certainly wasn’t going to just send it off,” Dau said. “I wanted to see where it was going.”

When the Daus visited Leyburn Library, Turner showed them the surviving volume.

“It was neat to see the consecutive numbers and realize that the book really did belong in the Washington and Lee library,” Dau said.

Dau had only one, tongue-in-cheek stipulation about returning the volume: that W&L exempt him from any fines. At the current rate of $1 a day, he would have been on the hook for $52,858.

But then again, C.S. Gates didn’t exactly check out the book back in 1864.

The Taxman Cometh

Maybe it’s not too late for some tax tips from Michelle Drumbl, director of the School of Law’s Tax Clinic. You can listen to Michelle’s advice on ways to save on your taxes on our Soundbites page. But if you’ve already filed (and here’s hoping you have), you might be interested in the debate on the death tax in which a Washington and Lee alumnus is playing a central role. Jeff Cook of the Class of 2001 is executive director of the Washington-based Policy and Taxation Group, which is devoted to the elimination of the estate and gift tax. In the clip linked below, you can watch Jeff argue his case against Michael Ettlinger, Center for American Progress Action, on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” Tuesday. And he’s scheduled to return for Round 2 at 10:50 a.m. (Eastern time) Wednesday (April 15). Tune in.

W&L Tax Clinic Helps People in Trouble with the IRS

Some Virginians will have sleepless nights courtesy of the IRS even after the tax-filing deadline.

The Tax Clinic at Washington and Lee University’s School of Law can help alleviate some of those nightmares for individuals living in the Shenandoah Valley and the surrounding area.

Established in January 2008, the clinic is funded partly by the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service. It helps low-income tax payers having problems with their federal taxes, or state taxes related to a federal problem. They won’t help you file your current tax return, but W&L has another free program that will.

“All of our services are free,” says Michelle Drumbl, assistant clinical professor of law. She is a former attorney with the IRS Office of Chief Counsel’s International group. As director of the Tax Clinic, she mentors nine W&L law students who provide the services. All have taken the Federal Income Taxation of Individuals course. Some will go on to specialize in taxes after graduation, while others enjoy the experience of working with clients.

“It can be overwhelming when the IRS is sending you a letter or challenging you on something,” says Drumbl. “Sometimes just having a student who has the time to do research, look at things objectively and explain how the IRS works can be very helpful. Sometimes there’s a simple option that the taxpayer wouldn’t know about or doesn’t have the time to deal with.”

Drumbl and the students meet face-to-face with all their clients. “It’s great for the students,” says Drumbl. ‘We’ve had some clients who just can’t get their problems straightened out. The students enjoy helping. It’s very educational for them and also is a great example of the law school’s recently heightened emphasis on experiential learning.”

If you haven’t filed a tax return for years, you’ll have plenty of company at the clinic.

Drumbl points to one case where a woman who had not filed a tax return for six years discovered that she was due a few thousand dollars in refunds — all she had to do was file her tax returns. “We were able to get this money back for her and tell her ‘you’re not in trouble’, says Drumbl.

The clinic also handles audits, an experience that Drumbl says can terrify people. “If the IRS wants additional information on charitable donations or earned-income tax credits, we help clients put their case together and represent them,” she says.

Students also see cases where people owe the IRS money. They can’t pay and don’t know what to do about it. “Surprisingly, the IRS will work with taxpayers,” says Drumbl. “They might agree to an installment agreement and let you pay over time. That’s preferable to just putting your head in the sand and ignoring it.”

Drumbl also points out that the IRS has only 10 years after it has assessed taxes to collect them. “We actually see cases where some IRS debts just expire and the client doesn’t owe anything,” she says.

Another alternative, if you’re unemployed or not earning enough to pay your taxes, is to request “currently not collectible” status. This means the IRS will leave you alone and check again in maybe a year to see if your situation has improved. “Instead of facing wage garnishment, you will be able to keep the regular amount of pay check ,” says Drumbl, “and I count that a success.”

One case that stands out is a taxpayer who was trying to deal with his tax issues through the U.S. Tax Court.

“For a number of reasons, he was at a disadvantage in dealing with the IRS,” says Drumbl. “The students eventually worked out what the problem was. All he needed to do was fill out one government form, then submit it to the right place. The IRS conceded the case.”

“He probably couldn’t have worked this out on his own,” says Drumbl, “because he didn’t have the right access to the right people in the right agencies — no fault of his at all. He was so grateful that we were able to make the problem go away.”

The students will also help small business owners. “Sometimes they don’t know what they’re doing with taxes,” says Drumbl, “and it can get complicated fairly quickly. They may be repeating the same problem year after year which can run up huge debts quite easily.”

Overall, Drumbl is happy with the results the students get. “More often than not we have been able to get some level of success for our clients” she says. “We have also had some cases where we have to say there’s nothing we can do for you. In these cases it might be that they have the ability to pay their debt or that they are being unrealistic as to how the IRS works.”

The types of assistance the clinic provides include, but are not limited to: earned income credit; deficiency notices; collection disputes; liens and levies; installment agreements; offers in compromise; failure to file tax returns; audits; appeals; tax court representation; innocent spouse relief; injured spouse claims; identity theft.

The Clinic operates completely independent of, and is not associated with, the IRS or the federal government. It can only provide legal representation to taxpayers whose income does not exceed 250% of the annual Federal Poverty Guidelines. For details please see the Tax Clinic Web site.

NFL Commissioner Goodell to Address Leadership in W&L Presentation

National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell will hold a conversation about leadership in sports at Washington and Lee University on Tuesday, April 21, at 7 p.m..

Goodell’s presentation, which is part of the Johnson Lecture Series, will be held in Lee Chapel. It is free and open to the public.

The program will feature a panel comprising Washington and Lee philosophy professor Bernard Jackson, athletic director Jan Hathorn, and two W&L student-athletes — lacrosse player Meredith Freeman, a junior from St. Louis, and football wide receiver Ty Parrino, a senior from Holliston, Mass.

Goodell will field questions from the panel during the first half of the program and then will take audience questions.

Named NFL commissioner in August 2006, Goodell originally joined the league in 1982 as an intern in the NFL’s New York offices. He had served in various positions with the league, including assistant to the president of the American Football Conference, vice president of operations and executive vice president of business properties and clubs services.

In December 2001, he was named NFL executive vice president and chief operating officer, the league’s No. 2 position to then commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

During his career with the NFL, Goodell has been involved in expansion, realignment, stadium development, international development, the launch of the NFL Network, and negotiations for the NFL’s television agreements and collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players’ Association.

A native of Jamestown, N.Y., Goodell is a 1981 graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, where he majored in economics. He serves on the boards of the national and New York chapters of Big Brothers & Big Sisters and is an officer of NFL Charities, the league’s charitable foundation.

Goodell’s appearance is sponsored by the Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity at Washington and Lee.

More World Travelers

In response to the recent post about the trip that W&L law grads Kara McDonald, Class of 2002, and Damien DeLaney, Class of 2003, are taking, What’s News was reminded by a reader that four alumni are currently sailing around the world on a 51-foot Skye called the Obelisk. The sailors are Jesse Smith (’03), Willie Thompson (’04), Rob Burnside (’04) and Matt Smith (’02), and their trip is being chronicled on the Website Obelisk Circumnavigation ’08. Be sure to check their Bermuda album.

W&L Emeritus Biology Professor Honored by Virginia Museum for Natural History

Cleveland P. Hickman Jr., professor emeritus of biology at Washington and Lee University, will receive the Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science from the Virginia Museum for Natural History Foundation at the organization’s 22nd annual Thomas Jefferson Awards on Earth Day on April 22, at the museum in Martinsville, Va.

The medal is presented to an individual who has consistently made outstanding contributions to natural history.

Hickman taught at Washington and Lee from 1967 until his retirement in 1993. He specialized in animal physiology, general zoology and ecology. He is the author of three textbooks of zoology – Integrated Principles of Zoology, Biology of Animals and Animal Diversity. Integrated Principles of Zoology is currently in its 14th edition.

Hickman’s early research concentrated on fish physiology but he later focused on the Galapagos Islands. He an international expert on the aquatic invertebrates of the Galapagos and has had two species that he discovered named after him.

In retirement, he has published four field guides in the Galapagos Marine Life Series, the most recent, published in 2008, on corals and other radiate invertebrates.These field guides and photographs of the two species named after Hickman are currently on display in the Boatwright Room of Leyburn Library as part of an exhibition honoring the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth.

Founded in 1984 as The Boaz Foundation, a private institution, the Virginia Museum of Natural History is a state agency that has earned recognition as one of the nation’s leading museums in its field. It is accredited by the American Association of Museums, a distinction earned by fewer than 10 percent of museums in the United States.

W&L Recognizes and Honors University Staff Retirees at Banquet

Washington and Lee University’s Employee Recognition Banquet held Monday, April 13, recognized four retiring members of W&L’s staff, with a total of 103 years of service to W&L.

The staff retirees are Melvin K. Davis, sergeant, shift supervisor, Public Safety, 1992-2008; Mimi Milner Elrod, director of Summer Scholars, 1986-2009; Lowell E. Humphreys, manager, Skylark, 1977-2009; and Viola J. Humphreys, custodian, Skylark, 1977-2009.

Fifty-eight additional employees, who have reached employment milestones from 10-50 years for a total of 1,140 years, were also recognized at the Banquet.

Holocaust Remembrance Week at W&L is April 27-May 1

Washington and Lee University’s Hillel presents Holocaust Remembrance Week from April 27 – May 1. The planned activities range from films to a vigil to a talk by Holocaust survivor, George Salton. All of the Holocaust Remembrance Week activities are open to the public without charge.

George Salton, the survivor of 10 concentrations camps, will talk about his experiences on Thursday, April 30, at 5 p.m. in the Stackhouse Theater in Elrod Commons. Salton is witness to the murder of hundreds of innocent people and the only one in his Polish-born family to survive the Holocaust. He is the author The 23rd Psalm: A Holocaust Memoir.

The complete activities at Washington and Lee during Hillel’s Holocaust Remembrance Week are:

Monday, April 27

  • 7 p.m., film: Defiance in Stackhouse Theater, Elrod Commons

    Defiance is based on the true story of a group of Jews in Belarus who successfully defied the Nazis, hid in the forest and maintained a self-contained society while losing only about 50 of their some 1,200 members. The “Bielski Partisans” represented the war’s largest and most successful group of Jewish resisters, although when filmmakers arrived on the actual locations to film the story, they found no local memory of their activities, and, for many reasons, hardly any Jews. Edward Zwick’s film shows how they survived, governed themselves and faced ethical questions.

Tuesday, April 28

  • 5-6 p.m., a vigil to remember the six million: students, faculty and staff will take turns reading the names of Holocaust victims, Cohen Amphitheater.
  • 7 p.m., film: Defiance in Stackhouse Theater, Elrod Commons.

Wednesday, April 29

  • 7 p.m., film: Schindler’s List in Stackhouse Theater, Elrod Commons.

    Schindler’s List is an American 1993 biographical film about Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. The film was directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the novel Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally. It stars Liam Neeson as Schindler, Ralph Fiennes as Schutzstaffel (SS) officer Amon Göth, and Ben Kingsley as Schindler’s accountant Itzhak Stern.

    The film was both a box office success and recipient of seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Score. In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked the film eighth on its list of the 100 best American films of all time.

Thursday, April 30

  • 5 p.m., talk by George Salton, Holocaust survivor, Stackhouse Theater.
  • 10 p.m., film: Schindler’s List in Stackhouse Theater, Elrod Commons.

Friday, May 1

  • 6 p.m., Yom HaShoah Service in Elrod Commons, room 345, led by W&L Dean Hank Dobin; dinner to follow in Elrod Commons, room 116.
  • 10 p.m., film: Schindler’s List in Stackhouse Theater, Elrod Commons.

Giving Voice (and Images) to Local Communities

A story in Sunday’s Charleston Gazette tells the story of how one Washington and Lee alumna has been forever changed by her participation in W&L’s Shepherd Poverty Program. You can get details fromthe story but briefly it describes a project that Shannon Bell, a member of W&L’s Class of 2000, created for five communities in southern West Virginia. As the Gazette piece relates, When Shannon served as a intern for the Shepherd Program in the summer of 1999, Shannon was assigned to West Virginia and fell in love with the state. After her graduation, she worked for the Cabin Creek Health Center with the West Virginia Rural Health Education Partnerships. (By the way, West Virginians know well that Cabin Creek is the home of basketball Hall of Famer Jerry West.) While there, Shannon conceived of the “Photovoice” project, giving digital cameras to people and asking them to take photos of issues in their community that were of concern to them and to write short essays to accompany those photos. Shannon eventually left West Virginia to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Oregon but came back last September and gave cameras to 40 women to conduct a Photovoice project. The resulting images have not only been hailed for their artistic value but also have had an impact on legislators in the state.

Fulbright Honors W&L Alumus John D. Maguire

The Fulbright Association is honoring Washington and Lee alumnus John D. Maguire of the Class of 1953 with its Lifetime Achievement Medal. Maguire, president emeritus of the Claremont University Consortium and director of the Institute for Democratic Renewal,, will receive the award on May 12 in Washington. He’s in an impressive group of four recipients. In addition to John, others are poet Rita Dove, composer Philip Glass, and entrepreneur Ruth M. Owades. All four are alumni of the Fulbright program and, according to the announcement, are distinguished by “career accomplishments and civic and educational contributions are judged to have expanded the boundaries of human wisdom, empathy, and perception.” John was president of CGU for 17 years after previously being president of the State University of New York College at Old Westbury. Immediately after his graduation from W&L, John spent his Fulbright year at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, before returning to get a divinity degree and a Ph.D. from Yale. He’s internationally respected as a teacher-scholar and a social activist. As a young religion professor at Wesleyan University, was arrested on one of the Freedom Rides in Montgomery, Ala., in 1961. He received an honorary degree from W&L in 1979.

Two W&L Students Win Goldwater Scholarships

Two Washington and Lee University students —  junior Bena M. Tshishiku from Martinez, Ga., and sophomore F. Andrew Tessier Jr. from New Orleans, La. —  have been awarded a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.

They were among the 278 Goldwater Scholars selected from a field of 1,097 mathematics, science and engineering students. It’s the first time in W&L’s recorded history that two students have won this scholarship in the same academic year. The one- and two-year awards cover tuition, fees, books and room and board, up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

“The Goldwater Scholarship is highly prestigious, and the awards process is very competitive,” said Marcia France, W&L’s Goldwater liaison and professor of chemistry. “I am delighted that this year the achievements of two W&L students have been recognized with this honor.”

Tshishiku, a math major who did research with assistant mathematics professor Katherine Crowley last summer, plans to continue studying 2-simple, 2-simplicial 4-polytopes. “Bena understands what is required to do research in mathematics,” said Crowley. “He is already producing significant results in the fields of topology and combinatorics. He made significant contributions to the solution of an open question we answered together last summer — one that each of us may not have solved on our own.”

“Working with Dr. Crowley last summer, I developed a love and understanding of research, which inspired me to apply for the Goldwater,” said Tshishiku. “I learned what questions a researcher asks and how to approach a problem. These skills helped me write my Goldwater research proposal and will be vital as I continue toward graduate school.”

After earning his Ph.D. in mathematics, Tshishiku plans on combining teaching with his love of research. “Peer tutoring at W&L has prepared me for the teaching aspect of being a professor,” he said. He’s a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and Student Activities Organization and is a high school math and physics tutor. His hobbies include cooking and reading science fiction.

Tessier, a physics-engineering major, mentioned in his proposal that he plans to continue studying turbulent processes in compressible flows, among other projects. Joel Kuehner, assistant professor of physics and engineering, commented, “It is a well-deserved reward for his dedication to the engineering program and especially to our research project. Without Andrew’s diligence, we would not have been successful this past year. It has been a privilege to have him in class and to work with him in the lab, and I look forward to watching him continue along this decorated path.”

“I am extremely happy to have won a Goldwater Scholarship, and I feel fortunate to have represented Washington and Lee University in this competition,” said  Tessier. “This award is a real honor and a tribute to the type of education and research available here. I hope to build upon this success in competitions for future fellowships and continue to represent the university proudly.”

While at W&L, Tessier has been a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, has been involved in Catholic Campus Ministries and on the review committee for the EC constitution. Future plans include obtaining a Ph.D. in mechanical or aerospace engineering and then conducting research on or building future spacecraft. He will intern at NASA this summer.

In 1986, Congress established the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program to honor Senator Goldwater for his exceptional service to the U.S. Goldwater served this country for 56 years as both a soldier and a statesman, including his 30 years in the Senate.

Law Professor’s Book Honored by International Law Organizations

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Teaching for America

Casandra (Casie) Pedroza majored in neuroscience at Washington and Lee and was on a premed track when she made a trip to Texas to work with Hurricane Katrina victims. Things changed. The 2007 graduate may yet make it to medical school. But for the moment, you can see Casie’s picture and read a story of her work as a fifth grade science and math teacher on the front page of The Herald, a rural North Carolina newspaper last week. Casie is one of three teachers assigned to schools in Johnston County, N.C., just southeast of Raleight, as part of the national Teach for America program. She is teaching at Corinth-Holder Elementary and told The Herald: “I don’t really work in a job where I’ve got to worry about myself a lot. No teacher really does. I think that is something you gain from working in a field like teaching. You learn to give more of yourself.”

Alumna Fighting Food Allergies

When her daughter had a violent reaction to eggs and was diagnosed with a food allergy, Robyn McCord O’Brien, Class of 1993, says she wanted to tattoo a warning across her daughter’s forehead so that people would be aware of the danger that certain foods posed for her. That was the start of Robyn’s work on the children’s food allergies. Not only did she design a universal food allergy symbol (an exclamation point inside the stop sign octagon) but she has also founded an organzation calledAllergyKids, appeared on several national TV shows and written a book, The Unhealthy Truth, that  will be published by Random House early next month. As described on the AllergyKids Web site, Robyn’s work focuses on “creating universal awareness of food allergies, educating the population about the severity of food allergies and the important role that diet can play in healing these children.” AllergyKids also funds the AllergyKids Foundation, which has a goal of finding a cure for food allergies. Robyn has assembled a pretty impressive “inspiration team,” individuals who support the AllergyKids work. Members of that team include Prince Charles, Erin Brockovich, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. You can read more about Robyn on the About the Founder page of the AllergyKids Web site where you can watch an interview on CNN.

Hunter Branstetter and Jenna Walls Named Unsung Generals of the Year

Washington and Lee University seniors Hunter Branstetter of Nashville, Tenn., and Jenna Walls of Zionsville, Ind., were named the John W. Elrod Unsung Generals of the Year at the seventh annual Celebrating Student Success Awards held Sunday night, April 5, in the living room of the John W. Elrod University Commons.

Branstetter and Walls were chosen with input from the campus community and the University’s Celebrating Student Success committee from among a group of 18 student nominees. The award is typically given to one individual.

The award carries a $1,000 prize, to be split between the winner and the campus or local organization of their choice. Branstetter and Walls will split the prize. They will also have their names engraved on a plaque in the John W. Elrod University Commons.

Branstetter was initially nominated for his contributions to the Honor Advocate Program. Kristen Hutchens, third year law student, wrote in his nomination that, “without question, the student conduct and student self-governance aspects of campus life at W&L have been enhanced due to Hunter Branstetter’s contributions to the Honor Advocate Program. The hundreds of hours he has invested have resulted in more students walking away from hearings feeling that they better understood the procedure and process.”

Branstetter is also the Outing Club Key Staff for kayaking, a peer counselor and on the board of directors for the W&L chapter of Habitat for Humanity. An English major, he will be taking a year off to teach before heading to Vanderbilt Law School.

Walls was initially nominated for her contributions to Nabors Service League and men’s basketball. Burr Datz wrote in her nomination that, “the result of Jenna’s servant leadership is a rich benefit for the needy within Lexington and Rockbridge County. She coordinates approximately 400 students involved in Nabors Service League. She also serves as manager for the men’s basketball team. Whatever her role, she is constantly enthusiastic and consistently optimistic.”

Walls also is a past president of Pi Beta Phi sorority. A biology major, she will attend graduate school for physiology at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. She hopes to become an orthopedic surgeon and/or sports medicine doctor.

In addition to Branstetter and Walls, the Celebrating Student Success committee recognized the following individuals at the awards ceremony for their contributions to campus life:

• Diana Burgreen ‘09
• John Christopher ‘09
• Micaela Coffey ‘09
• Helen Coupe ‘09
• Abigail Dean ‘11
• Jackie DiBiasie ‘09
• Isaiah Goodman ‘09
• Rasaq “Zaq” Lawal ‘10
• Lisa Luu ‘09
• Jessica Makona ‘10
• Julianne Miata ‘09
• Michael Morella ‘10
• Elizabeth Polanco Aquino ‘09
• Jamila Seaton ‘09
• Megan Steinhardt ‘10
• Hila Yashar ‘09

More information about the above winners will be on the Student Affairs Web site (Celebrating Student Success-2009) soon.

Also recognized at the awards assembly was sophomore Catherine Kruse, winner of the University’s Decade Award, which honors a sophomore woman who has exhibited exemplary leadership and who has advanced the discussion of women’s issues on campus.

Kruse is an English and psychology major with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. She is the current vice president of KEWL (Knowledge Empowering Women Leaders) and a member of SPEAK. Recently she has been the chair of Love Your Body Week of the Sexual Assault Awareness Day and committee member for Take Back the Night.

The award was presented to Kruse by Elizabeth Knapp ‘89, associate dean of the College. Knapp said, “The Decade Award was given initially at the 10-year benchmark of coeducation at Washington and Lee and reintroduced at the 20th Anniversary Celebration of Women at Washington and Lee. Catherine is a fantastic woman leader on our campus, and she shows much potential for the years to come.”

The awards assembly also provided student organizations and groups the opportunity to honor individual members who provided inspiration, leadership and direction for their organizations. There were many organization members honored in this way.

The Celebrating Student Success initiative began in fall 2001, with a charge from the Dean of Students’ office to recognize those students who contribute to campus life in ways not often seen by the larger community, and who bring both depth and breadth to the University.

Theresa Braunschneider’s Study of Nighttime Activities in the 18th Century Wins ACLS Fellowship

Theresa Braunschneider, associate professor of English at Washington and Lee University, has been awarded a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Society (ACLS) that she will use for a sabbatical year during 2009-10 to complete her new book, After Dark: Modern Nighttime in 18th Century Literature. She is the first W&L faculty member to win the fellowship.

“I hope to read and research and write a good deal more because of this award,” says Braunschneider. “I was surprised and thrilled to be given such an honor. I like that it means not only that I receive support to spend the year writing but it’s also a kind of endorsement of my project.”

“This is an extremely competitive fellowship,” says Lesley Wheeler, professor of English and department chair, “and it will enable her to develop this exciting new work. Between this and the major prize she won for her book Our Coquettes, she is clearly having a banner year.”

Braunschneider says she didn’t realize until she received her acceptance letter that the competition was so stiff. ACLS awarded only 57 fellowships out of 1,007 applications.

Scholars in all of the humanities and social sciences assessed the applications, which have to show how a project might benefit academics in other fields. “It means I did a good job with the proposal in speaking to other audiences about my project, and making them understand what might be useful about it,” says Braunschneider.

Her new book will look at how the radical changes in the use of nighttime in the 18th century were linked to notions of modernity.

She explains that in the early 18th-century writers used the very new phenomenon of public nocturnal assembly in London to define the age as modern. “People were going out at night—to pleasure gardens, balls, assemblies, theater and opera,” she says. “This reflected a broader 18th-century enlightenment notion that people could be independent from natural cycles. New lighting technologies meant going to bed at four in the morning and getting up in the afternoon. It was a real shift in people’s schedules. And the period’s writers often measure their modernity—their sense of difference from and advancement beyond earlier periods—by this shift, suggesting, ‘w are not beholden to the rising and setting of the sun to determine our social schedules. We are a modern people who have paved and lit the streets of London.’”

Braunschneider will examine the ways in which writers of the period actively debated how the fall of darkness should affect individual behavior and social interaction, and how they regularly defined their “age” in terms of its nocturnal activity.

No previous study has analyzed the literary treatment of nighttime or used time of day as a central category of analysis. Braunschneider hopes that time of day could be become a category of analysis for scholars in many different fields—socially, politically, philosophically, musically, psychologically, economically and/or literarily.

Braunschneider earned her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in English and women’s studies. Her research for the new book will primarily emphasize the dynamic relationship between conceptions of gender, modernity and nighttime.

Around the World They Go

Prepare to be envious. Late last month two Washington and Lee law graduates — Kara McDonald, Class of 2002, and Damien DeLaney, Class of 2003 — embarked on a year-long round-the-world journey, and they’re sharing their travels via a blog titled Running Towards. Kara and Damien (they’re married, and he’s the son of W&L history professor of Ted DeLaney) were living in Santa Monica and working as attorneys in Los Angeles when they decided to leave their jobs and head out on their adventure. As of this past Sunday, April 5, they were in Ireland, visiting the Ring of Kerry. Their preliminary itinerary, posted in January, listed 31 countries and their plans were to spend two weeks to a month in each one. The best way to navigate the blog is to use the calendar and to start on Jan. 11 and go forward. One particularly poignant post is “Ode to a Good Bug,” which is the story of their sale of thier lime green VW convertible bug called Russell Sprout. They wound up selling it to CarMax, which Damien and Kara describe as “roughly the equivalent of taking your car to the pound.” Anyway, enjoy all of the posts, and be sure to stay tuned to Running Towards.

Winners of Johnson Opportunity Grants Announced

The Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity at Washington and Lee University has announced the eight inaugural recipients of the Johnson Opportunity Grants. The grants are funded by a gift to W&L which also created scholarships, a lecture and symposia series focusing on leadership and two endowed professorships.

The grant will support students in a variety of off-campus summer projects which will help them in their chosen careers and fields of study. These first eight winners are part of a pilot program for the Johnson Opportunity Grants, which will be fully operational in 2010-2011, at which time between 25-30 students will be chosen yearly.

The grants will vary in amount from $1,000 to $4,500 depending on budgets, travel costs, living expenses and other necessary expenditures. The first eight recipients of Johnson Opportunity Grants are:

  • Hiba Assi ’10, a double major in physics and mathematics and will be conducting research on fluid dynamics in a lab at the American University in Lebanon.
  • Cristina Bratu ’11, an economics major, wants to work with a UN development program in Romania. She will hear about her internship application shortly.
  • James Dick ’10, an economics major, is active in the Shepherd Poverty Program, and will be working in Peru with a microfinance project that helps people in that community take advantage of small business opportunities.
  • Felice Herman ’11, an anthropology major, will spend the summer doing field work in Gabii, Italy-the site of an ancient Latin city that was once a rival to Rome.
  • Catherine Kruse ’11, with a double major in English and psychology and a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies, has an internship with the National Women’s Law Center in Washington.
  • Kendall Massengill ’10, a biochemistry major, is seeking an internship dealing with health and social justice.
  • Holly Ratliff ’10, with a double major in religion and classics, is planning to work in Washington for an organization that studies the legal and public policy issues involving relations between church and state.
  • Lauren Sturdy ’11, majoring in art history and chemistry, will have an internship with the Museum Conservation Institute in Maryland where she will work on textile conservation.

A Lively Alumnus at 102 (and 11 Months)

Dr. Harry Neel of the Class of 1928 confesses that he doesn’t get around like he once did, he is using the cane that his son has insisted upon, and a friend describes him as “just a lively person.” Those are just a few of the revelations in a wonderful feature story about Harry that appeared this past Saturday (April 5) in the Albert Lea Tribune, the newspaper serving Albert Lea, Minn., a city of about 19,000 located 90 miles south of the Twin Cities. Harry is going to turn 103 next month and was the first of Albert Lea’s “centarians” to be featured in a special series the Tribune is doing. Reporter Sarah Stultz describes Harry’s journey from Florida to North Carolina to Virginia for college and Maryland (Johns Hopkins) for medical school and ultimately to Minnesota where he joined the Mayo Clinic as a fellow in surgery in 1936. Four years later he relocated to Albert Lea and has lived there ever since. Be sure to check out the slide show of images, including shots of Harry’s W&L diploma and his 75th W&L reunion hat (it’s misidentified as his high school reunion but the Trident is unmistakeable.)

Art for Your Wall by Katie Wall

Katie Wall, a 2005 Washington and Lee graduate who majored in biology and studio art, has recently unveiled a new Web site that has a some striking examples of her art work. After W&L, Katie went to the Savannah College of Art and Design to get an M.F.A. and also worked for SCAD as media relations manager. She still does freelance writing for SCAD while working on her art projects. In addition to pursuing the images on her Web site, you can actually go buy them for your wall (not your Facebook wall, either) by clicking over to her shop on Etsy, a site where handmade stuff gets sold. We grabbed the self-portrait from her site and hope she won’t mind. The news section of her site lists upcoming exhibitions in Wilmington and Charlotte, N.C., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

It’s All Greek for Grade Schoolers Learning the Language in Lexington

Twice a week, Washington and Lee University sophomore Samantha Copping sits down with her students at a Lexington, Va., coffee shop for a tutoring session. It’s an unremarkable scene until you consider the subject — ancient Greek — and the students’ ages.

“Yes, I am, in fact, teaching grade-school boys ancient Greek, the language of Homer and Plato,” said Copping, a W&L classics major.

Copping began with second-grader Harry Richter, who had expressed an interest in learning ancient Greek. Then word got around about the lessons. Before she knew it, Copping had five students—all boys—ranging from second to fifth grades. And so the after-school enrichment program in ancient Greek began.

Why boys? Copping surmises that it’s partly because the boys play computer games with Greek warriors, watch television shows with ancient Greek heroes and play with swords. For Harry, it was also a question of being bored in school. His  mother suggested learning a language. He jumped at Greek, the language of his heroes.

When asked why he wanted to learn ancient Greek, third-grader Ben Hansen said he just thought it would be fun. “I wanted to learn a foreign language and I thought Greek would be rewarding because I could read  lots of stories in the original Greek. And Poseidon – the Greek god of water – he’s my favorite god.”

Last semester, Copping started Harry off with the alphabet, putting letters together into words, recognizing words, learning grammar and reading ancient Greek (or Attic Greek, as it’s called) which varies significantly from the Greek spoken today.  “Harry got pretty far into the grammar last semester,” said Copping, “and he was understanding concepts that I thought there was no way an eight-year-old could comprehend—concepts like case, number, gender.”

Copping continued, “Now we’re just starting with some of Harry’s friends, still making sure they have a grasp of the alphabet.” Once, her young students were thinking about a Greek word, trying to spell it in their minds, when Harry chimed in with a clue: “What dessert don’t I like?” The answer was pie; the Greek letter they were searching for was—pi.

“We spend the second half of the class doing a craft or activity—the crafts can come into play with the culture and mythology side of ancient Greek,” Copping said. “For example, when we were talking about Greek theater, we discussed the masks that had big mouth holes to amplify the sound. They wanted to make their own masks. So that was our activity for a few days.”

Copping tailors the program to the boys’ ages. “Being little kids, they have short attention spans,” she said, “so I’ll take them as far as I can with the grammar and words before they get to the point where it’s not fun anymore, and they want to move on to something else.”

“A teacher once told me, you never really know anything until you have to teach it,” said Kevin Crotty, professor of classics at W&L and Copping’s adviser.  “That was my own experience with the ancient Greek grammar, I know.  And so I was very happy that the students in Greek and Latin here are getting the opportunity to teach to others what they are learning in their classes here at Washington and Lee.

“I have been very pleasantly surprised by the avid response from our students when I, sometimes a bit sheepishly, ask if anyone is interested in doing a spot of tutoring,” continued Crotty.  “Moreover, it’s wonderful to have such a vote of confidence in classical studies from the children of Lexington.  I think these kids are very lucky to get an introduction to a fascinating subject at an early age from really bright college students. I’m awfully proud of our students.”

This is not the first time that W&L’s classics department has been asked for their help in tutoring. Middle-schooler Jake Keen, son of W&L English professor Suzanne Keen, started being tutored in fourth grade. Now he is studying ancient Greek with W&L senior Katie Kern and is taking Latin in school.

Jake developed his interest after studying Greek myths and culture in elementary school. Seeing antiquities in the British Museum and the Louvre and having his dad read him “The Odyssey” (in English) inspired him to learn ancient Greek. Kern is his third W&L tutor.

Copping’s interest in Latin began in middle school. When interviewing with W&L’s admissions office, she told them of her interest in Latin, mythology and ancient stories, and they recognized “a perfect classics major.”

Tutoring kids helps Copping with her love of Greek. “In the middle of the night, translating a passage for class can get discouraging, but when you see little kids love it so much, that reawakens that love. Those memories of what it was like in middle school to be captivated by something—that’s something I don’t ever want to lose,” Copping said.

Professor’s New Study Finds ALI Family Law Principles Have Small Impact

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Law School Tax Clinic Receives IRS Grant

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Medal of Freedom Winner William T. Coleman to Deliver Annual Law and History Lecture

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Introducing Radio IE

Back in January a new radio show made its debut on WLUR-FM, the campus radio station of Washington and Lee. Radio IE is the “Voice of International Education” at W&L. Hosted by Laurent Boetsch, professor of Romance languages and director of the Center for International Education, the show features interviews with students who are engaged in international education — both U.S. students who have studied abroad and international students who are in residence at W&L — music from around the world, poetry from many nations, and other features. Three of the programs are now available as archives, and all are full of interesting information. Click on the audio players below to listen.

January 29: Premiere show dedicated to Spain.

March 12: Interviews with: Victoria Taylor, Class of 2011, and Ashley Craddock, Class of 2010, participants in the ESOL trip to the Dominican Republic; Xinnan Wang, Class of 2012, coordinator of the annual Evening Abroad extravaganza; Felice Herman, 2009 Woolley Fellow.

March 26: Dedicated to Spring Term Abroad.

Judge Ginsburg’s Centrist Role: Opinion Piece by W&L’s Russell Miller in Roanoke Times

Judge Ginsburg’s Centrist Role
Russell A. Miller
Associate Professor of Law, Washington and Lee University

Speculation about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s retirement may be premature. But it is not too soon to reflect on her surprisingly centrist contribution to American constitutional law.

Ginsburg’s recent brush with pancreatic cancer, at age 76, and the fact that Democrat Barack Obama would nominate her replacement have fueled the retirement intrigue. She has been upbeat about her health and returned to the Supreme Court after surgery to ask the first questions in the first oral argument of 2009. Yet Ginsburg herself recently fanned the retirement rumors by suggesting that the court might soon have to sit for a new group photograph, implying a new appointee.

What will be Ginsburg’s legacy?

Ginsburg is best known for her long campaign to promote gender equality. President Bill Clinton, announcing her nomination to the court, declared, “She is to the women’s movement what former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was to the movement for the rights of African Americans.”

Her jurisprudence on equality reached its peak when she authored the majority opinion in the court’s landmark decision United States v. Virginia. This decision ended the Virginia Military Institute’s male-only policy by very nearly putting gender equality on the same, strictly protected, constitutional footing as racial equality.

Her interpretation of the Constitution on this issue has aroused conservative criticism and perpetuated the mistaken view that she is an orthodox liberal. She is not.

Ginsburg is a self-declared judicially modest centrist. During her Senate confirmation hearings, she said, “My approach, I believe, is neither liberal nor conservative.” Her record after 13 years as a judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals clearly demonstrated this — she voted most frequently with none other than Judge Kenneth W. Starr.

This centrist approach also has been evident during her time on the Supreme Court. Ginsburg has preferred that Congress, state legislatures and state courts, not the federal courts, make the law. But when federal courts must act, she has favored an incremental approach, a view she invoked in scholarly criticism of the far-reaching changes that resulted from the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Roe v. Wade.

Ginsburg also has taken moderate positions on a number of issues from crime to business.

However, it is her commitment to state autonomy that poses the most dramatic challenge to the criticism of conservative commentators, who vilify her as one of the court’s most consistently liberal and activist justices.

For example, Ginsburg wrote the lone dissent in last term’s case Riegel v. Medtronic. She argued that at stake were “the historic police powers of the states,” the precarious “federal-state balance” and the special respect owed by the federal government to “state action in fields of traditional state regulation.” Ginsburg refused to support enfeebling state autonomy in Riegel as she regularly has done throughout her tenure on the court.

Ginsburg’s surprising centrism with respect to the balance between the role of the federal government and state autonomy is an integral part of her constitutional jurisprudence.

I hope we can look forward to many more years with Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. We will be lucky to have her surprisingly centrist voice as part of our national debate — something for which the states in particular can take comfort.

(This piece was originally published in the Roanoke Times.)

W&L Journalism Students Take Top Prizes at Society of Professional Journalists Regional Competition

Washington & Lee journalism students earned seven awards – with an unprecedented three first-place winners – in the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Region II annual collegiate journalism competition.

Winners of the Mark of Excellence Awards were The Rockbridge Report , the converged news Web site of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications; Jacob Geiger, for his editorials in the independent student-run Ring-tum Phi, and Alex Scaggs, for her feature profile of a former POW published in Take Two!,  the department’s single issue magazine for 2008.  Geiger is a senior print journalism major. Scaggs is a business journalism major.

W&L also earned three second-place and one third-place awards.

“We are delighted that the hard work and boundless talents of our students and faculty have been recognized in this way,” said Department Head Brian Richardson. “Seven awards is unprecedented for us, and is an especially impressive result against the much larger journalism programs in our region.”

It was the third win in the last four years in Region II for The Rockbridge Report, a weekly Web site through which W&L’s journalism classes cover local news. It won in the category of “Best All-Around Independent Online Student Publication.” Independent online means it is not the Web site of a campus paper.

The Rockbridge Report has also been a national runner-up in two of the last three years.

W&L’s  three Region II winners this year will compete against the winners in their categories from the other 11 regions for the national Mark of Excellence Awards. The national winners, runners-up and third place entries will be announced in mid-May. They will be honored at the national SPJ conference in Indianapolis on Aug. 28.

The 2008 Region II runners-up from W&L are the student magazine inGeneral, in the Best Student Magazine category; Election Day ’08 coverage in The Rockbridge Report in the Online News Reporting category, and “Funding the Silver Tsunami,”  , a Rockbridge Report project on the local costs of retirement for baby-boomers, in the Online In-Depth Reporting category.

Students who produced the multimedia “Silver Tsunami” project for last spring’s In-Depth Reporting journalism capstone course were Melissa Caron, Class of 2009, Megann Daw Class of 2008, Kat Greene, Class of 2008 and Drew Scarantino, Class of 2009.  The third-place award went to Take Two!, a single-issue magazine showcasing the work of students in the spring term 2008 Magazine Feature Writing class.

Three W&L journalism students attended the Region II conference and awards luncheon Mar. 28 at Marymount University with Professor Doug Cumming, the SPJ chapter advisor.

W&L’s chapter began in 1920s. SPJ was founded as  Sigma Delta Chi 100 years ago this month. With professional chapters and student chapters, it is the largest and oldest professional society for journalists.

55,000 Words — At Least

If the old adage is right (and who could ever argue the point) that a picture is worth all those words, then the Center for International Education has exceeded the word allotment on its Web site these days with four different slides shows displaying photographs that Washington and Lee students took during their various journeys around the world a year ago. These images, shown in rotation on a large screen TV set, comprised a dazzling display in the Leyburn Library earlier this semester. Now all of you who missed it live in Leyburn have an opportunity to view Grant Russell’s “Namibian Sunrise” and Kyle Simon’s “Outback Camel” and Kelsey Wright’s “Quijote’s Giants,” to name just three of the images. Here’s the deal: there were so many strong images that rather than create one long slide show, they’ve been divided into four smaller ones. Currently they’re in rotation on the Center for International Education page, so you’re never sure which ones you’re going to see when you go there. But as faithful readers of the What’s News blog, you get a break. All four are going to be linked below. Give them all a look; you’ll be glad you did.

W&L Study Abroad Photo Exhibit 1

W&L Study Abroad Photo Exhibit 2

W&L Study Abroad Photo Exhibit 3

W&L Study Abroad Photo Exhibit 4

Once you’ve seen them, do us a favor and come back here and tell us which image or images you liked best in the comment section of this blog post.